Six pinot noirs for Thanksgiving

I’ve tried a huge variety of wines over the years with Thanksgiving dinner, and I’ve come to realize that there’s really no “right” wine to pour. When you’re part of a big group, you can just lay out a range of wines and let folks choose for themselves. When the group is smaller, and you’ll be opening just one or two wines, you have to narrow the field.

I just let a few principles guide me. First, I choose a red because, for my taste, it’s the best pairing with the turkey. Nothing too tannic or too alcoholic. And nothing too delicate – Thanksgiving dinner will simply overwhelm, say, a fragile, aged Burgundy. Instead, I look for something with a lot of fruit, ample acidity and maybe a savory note. Rhone-style reds are a good choice. But my go-to wine has become pinot noir. And it’s become my custom to pick an American wine for this very American holiday.

So I’ve culled through my tasting notes from the past several months to find some pinots from Oregon and California that fit the bill. Nothing too expensive – these top out at $40.

First up is an amazing value from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Cloudline Cellars is a label from Dreyfus, Ashby & Co., the importer owned by Burgundy’s Drouhin family. The consulting winemaker for the project is Véronique Drouhin-Boss, winemaker at Domaine Drouhin Oregon and Maison Joseph Drouhin in Burgundy. The 2017 Cloudline Pinot Noir ($15) offers lively red raspberry, a forest floor note and supple texture. A lot of pinot noir at this price doesn’t really taste like pinot, but this wine has ample pinot character. You may see this at a higher price at some retailers, but I picked it up for $15 at Trader Joe’s.

I like that forest floor character in a pinot, which is why I’m such a fan of Oregon. Two more to consider, both in the $30 range, are the 2016 Stoller Pinot Noir ($30) from the Dundee Hills and the 2015 Chehalem Three Vineyard Pinot Noir ($30). The former displays dark berry fruit and supple texture, while the latter is spicier, with firm structure. Both have that woodsy note.

Our bargain-priced entry from California is the 2017 J. Lohr “Falcon’s Perch” Pinot Noir ($17) from Monterey County. It’s supple and persistent, with racy raspberry and cherry flavors, accented by some spicy notes.

For a little more money, there’s the 2016 La Crema Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($25), with ripe yet lively cherry and raspberry and enough structure to stand up to the food. Note that La Crema has a number of appellation bottlings; the Willamette Valley is also very good.

For a splurge, I’m fond of the 2015 Foursight “Zero” Pinot Noir ($39) from Anderson Valley. The zero refers to zero new oak, so the wine is all about bright berry fruit and that woodsy undertone I like so much.



5 thoughts on “Six pinot noirs for Thanksgiving

  1. Would be happy to send you some Bouchaine Pinots now fully made by winemaker Chris Kajani but I don’t seem to have your email address any more. . ;-(

  2. I like to start the meal (and by that I mean while I’m cooking… ) with bubbles, then move onto something interesting and usually white (Sauvignon Blanc or a dry Riesling) during appetizer time… then a nice Pinot and/or GSM with the main meal. I love that you kept the recommendations to the $40 limit… This holiday is my favorite and I always have a house full. Happy Thanksgiving Laurie!

    1. Kelly,

      Nice to hear from you. We usually start with bubbles, too. But since there will be only two of us at dinner, I think two bottles will be the limit. Have a great holiday!


  3. Thanksgiving, to me, is more about the people than the wines and like Laurie, these days a lighter Pinot Noir fills the bill better than anything for our taste. Plus we add a bottle of good Gewurz (Anderson Valley – Navarro or Husch) since the sense of sweetness works well with the various foods and some folk prefer white. As for Pinots, we’re back with Navarro (the basic Anderson Valley bottling) and Elk Cove from Oregon is consistently delicious and again, under $30 for the ‘regular’ bottling. Happy Thanksgving to all and thanks to our first responders for another fall of protecting us.

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